Shock at Quaker group’s proposal to build retirement complex in west Suffolk village

Quaker Trust hopes to build an access way through Acton Allotments.

Quaker Trust hopes to build an access way through Acton Allotments. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Villagers have been left “stunned” after a religious group revealed its plans to build a retirement complex with 32 bungalows and a 40-bed care home on agricultural land in the middle of the west Suffolk countryside.

A charitable trust run by the Quakers wants to gain outline planning permission to build the facility on a field off Barrow Hill in Acton, near Sudbury.

Around 75 local people attending a parish council meeting on Monday night were “taken by surprise” when planning consultant David Morse - speaking on behalf of the Innominate Trust - said vehicular access to the site would have to be gained via the village allotments.

He also said an established wildlife area bordering the allotments would have to be relocated to enable traffic access to the development, which would exit on a notoriously narrow side lane.

In addition to the homes, Mr Morse suggested facilities such as a library and hairdressing salon could be built as part of a “multi-functional hub” in the centre of the development.

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He said in Suffolk, 21.4% of the population is over 65 - above the national average of 16.4% - and that there is a shortage in the area of housing for older people.

He said the trust’s aim was to “maximise the value of the land” - which has until recently been planted annually with crops and has a public footpath running down one side - while fitting in with “local community needs.”

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When questioned about how the site would be accessed, he added: “We are looking to do a land swap with the allotments.”

This brought gasps from members of the public and parish councillors, many of whom admitted they were “shocked” and “stunned” by the proposal.

Acton is less than two miles from the county council’s proposed 1,250-home Chilton Woods development on the outskirts of Sudbury. One Acton resident Lynne Bloomfield said: “Surely the idea of having a retirement village could be well served on the Chilton development.”

Another villager, Chris Moss, was worried about the strain the complex could place on Acton’s sewerage system. He said: “If you are building that number of units, there’s going to be effluent. The sewers that run down the main high street are already under strain and overflowing.”

There were also fears that if the trust gained outline planning permission on the site, it could then sell to a developer who could build “open market” homes instead of a retirement facility. One councillor said it would be difficult to enforce any legal clause attached to the application binding a developer to the proposed scheme.

Following the meeting, Christine Johnson, chairman of the parish council said: “I think everyone was very surprised by what was being proposed; it was not what we were expecting.

“It was obvious from the response of the public that they were not in favour of the idea of gaining access to the site by putting a road through the parish council-owned allotments and relocating the allotments.

“This suggestion came completely out of the blue and the parish council had not been approached previously to find out whether they would even consider this idea.

“It seems an unusual way of dealing with things and all we can do now is await further developments. The parish council will ensure that members of the public are fully informed at all stages.”

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